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Trailblazing indigenous women eye future

AAP logoAAP 9/11/2016 Lisa Martin

It's a long road between a humble poster of the United Nations on a Queensland bedroom wall and the world stage.

The journey of young indigenous lawyer Megan Davis to become chair of the UN panel on indigenous issues was inspiration Foreign Minister Julie Bishop held up to 80 Aboriginal women attending Oxfam's Straight Talk leadership summit in Canberra.

Professor Davis became obsessed with the UN as a youngster thanks to her mother's foresight to buy her copies of Time magazine, despite the financial difficulties of being on a single parent's pension.

Ms Bishop reflected on the importance of role models during her address.

"It's hard to be what you cannot see," she said.

"We can take great pride in the fact there are indigenous Australian women shaping the debate on global issues in global forums."

Ms Bishop hailed the achievements of go-getter indigenous students studying overseas under the federal government's New Colombo Plan, including Amarina Smith from Griffith University who is going to Hong Kong.

East Arnhem land dancer Ineke Wallis, 22, had articulately addressed the struggles for housing in her community at the United Nations, Ms Bishop said.

She urged the women to take note that change comes from within.

Labor Senate leader Penny Wong also echoed those sentiments.

"You can make a decision to not be interested in politics but you can never make a decision not to be affected by politics," she said.

Mother-of-six Lisa Lui from Mer (Murray) Island in the Torres Strait said being involved in the leadership program had given her enormous courage.

"I didn't know the potential I had in me," she told AAP.

Her focus is on improving education levels of young people in her community and helping them to find a sense of identity in their culture while at the same time carving a path in the modern world.

Ms Lui beams with pride as she talks about her teenage sons who are doing a traineeship in banking and a carpentry apprenticeship.

"When I was their age, I had no mentor in the community, I didn't know right from wrong," she said.

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